A special court in West Bengal’s Asansol on Saturday rejected Trinamool Congress leader Anubrata Mondal’s bail plea in connection with a cross-border cattle smuggling scam and sent him to the custody of the Central Bureau of Investigation till August 24, PTI reported.

The central agency had urged the court to extend his custody, saying that Mondal was a “very powerful and highly influential person”. If he gets bail, he could influence witnesses and tamper evidence, the agency added.

The Central Bureau of Investigation also claimed that Mondal has not been cooperating in the inquiry since the beginning. According to the agency, he coerced a doctor to prescribe him bedrest.

The case

Mondal, the president of the Trinamool Birbhum district unit, was arrested on August 11 in the case, which relates to the smuggling of cattle through the India-Bangladesh border. West Bengal shares a 2216 km border with Bangladesh.

On September 21, 2020, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a first information report. It later filed a supplementary chargesheet in the case naming Saigal Hossain, a bodyguard of Mondal, Vikash Mishra, the brother of Vinay Kumar Mishra of the Trinamool Youth Congress and a man named Abdul Latif.

Hossain, who was arrested in June, played a key role by collecting money that was part of the proceeds of crime in the name of Mondal, the Central Bureau of Investigation alleged.

“It was alleged that the accused persons were organising and patronising large scale illegal cattle smuggling to neighbouring country and collecting huge money from other persons,” a statement from the agency said. “It was also revealed that accused procured huge number of cattle from Illambazar Pashuhat and ensured safe passage for transportation of cattle to international border.”

Last week, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee criticised Mondal’s arrest, saying she will “start a movement” against alleged excesses of the central agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI.

“How many people will be arrested?” she asked. “I will hold a Jail Bharo movement with everyone. Come down to the streets.”